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A fantastic stone bridge in Prague that spans the Vltava river and joins Stare Mesto (The Old Town) with Hradcany (The Castle Distict). It is lined with numerous statues of saints and apostles.

Charles Bridge (Karlov Most in Czech) featured prominently in the film "Mission: Impossible" and is a major tourist attraction by day. It is regularly lined with street vendors selling everything from jewelry to paintings, but is deserted by morning, making this the best time to explore it.

Such is the volume of tourists who cross the bridge each day that the Czechs regularly hold a spiritual "cleansing" of this bridge to ward off all the bad vibes the tourists apparently bring with them.

Charles Bridge is not a man called Bridge, but a bridge called Charles. You should see it once, then come and see it again, and once more, until you fully grasp its deep beauty.

At first it's just another old European stone bridge crowded with tourists and statues. Maybe longer than others: 520 m (1700 ft). But forget about the tourists and look at the statues. I mean, really look at them. Most tourists cross the bridge and barely notice that the statues are not only old, most of them are also very beautiful. Don't stop, keep walking slowly and watch the first statue as it stands higher and higher on its pedestal. You're coming close now, so you can only see that statue above you, the sky behind it and nothing else. While you are walking past the statue and still keeping your eyes on it, the statue seems to turn around you, the baroque characters acquire life and get involved into a kind of religious play. Ultimately you need to detach your eyes from them and look in front of you again. Keep walking: there are 29 other statues for you to look at.

What is also remarkable about the bridge is its position. On one side of the river, the very large royal castle of Hradcany stands up on the top of a hill, preceded by beautiful gardens and the urban area of Mala Strana. On the other side, you get to the Old City, where every street has ten or twenty interesting buildings. Under your feet, it's the Vltava, more famous and easier to pronounce as the Moldau, an affluent of the Elbe. Therefore the water under your feet will one day get to the Baltic Sea, while the water that flows a few dozens kilometers on the east of Prague goes to the Black Sea.

Charles Bridge was built in 1357 by Peter Parlir, the master builder of Charles IV. St. John Nepomuk was thrown into the river from that bridge by King Venceslas (Vaclav). According to what the Jesuits said several centuries later, Nepomuk had been martyred because he had refused to betray the secrets of the confessional. He became the symbol of Roman Christianism against Protestantism. His statue is on the bridge.

As a reference, this is the list of the statues (from http://members.aol.com/mpgregor/private/charles.htm). Most of them are copies.

           We are starting from the Mala Strana side...

St. Wenceslas, 1858                         SS. Cosmas and Damian, 1709

SS. John, Felix,                 St. Vitus, the patron saint of dancers
and Ivan, 1704

St. Adalbert (Vojtech),                             St. Philip Benitius
the first bishop of Bohemia.

St. Lutigarde, 1710                                         St. Cajetan

St. Nicholas                                              St. Augustine

SS. Vincent Ferrer                             St. Judas Thaddeus, 1708
and Procopius (one of Bohemia's
four patron saints)

St. Francis of Assisi                              St. Anthony of Padua

St. Ludmilla                             St. John of Nepomuk, the first
                                                          statue - 1683

St. Francis Borgia,                    SS Norbert, Wenceslas, Sigismund
a Jesuit general

St. Christopher, the patron                        St. John the Baptist
saint of raftsmen

St. Francis Xavier, a             Cyril and Methodius, missionaries who
cofounder of Jesuit order          introduced Christianity to the Slavs

St. Joseph, with Jesus                          St. Anne, Mary's mother

The lamenting of Christ (Pieta)           17th century Bronze crucifix, 
                                                     originally of wood

SS. Barbara, Margaret, Elizabeth               The Madonna, SS. Dominic
                                                     and Thomas Aquinas

St. Ives, the patron saint             Madonna attending to St. Bernard
of flowers

           We have arrived to the Old Town side now...


(Source: four days in Prague)

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